False leads

As I’ve stated so many times before, I view the Charley Project as a place to share the story of a person’s disappearance: before, during, and after. That includes talking about the false leads that inevitably crop up during an investigation.

The Beverly Potts casefile, for example, details a number of leads that went nowhere, including a woman who wrote a letter that said she’d caught her husband disposing of Beverly’s body and left it in her house. It turned out, as I recall, that her husband was horribly abusive and she thought he would kill her, so she left the letter as a kind of attempt to frame him for child-murder from beyond the grave, assuming he actually did kill her.

As many of you know, there have been exciting new developments in the Jacob Wetterling case, and I dutifully updated his casefile. The details of disappearance includes an aside that Jacob’s father is an adherent of the Baha’i religion, a faith which not many Americans are familiar with, and there were rumors among the locals that Jacob’s dad’s religion had something to do with his son’s abduction.

A person posted a message on the Charley Project’s Facebook account saying they’d never read about Baha’i in relation to Jacob anywhere, and suggesting it be removed.

Well, the thing was, I hadn’t read about it either. The information about Jacob’s father’s religion and the subsequent rumor mill had been added to the casefile by Jennifer Marra back when she was running the MPCCN. So I checked with Newslibrary, a major source of old news articles, and found a St. Paul Pioneer Press article that referenced it. So at least I could confirm the accuracy of the information. (Not that I ever doubted it in the first place; Jenni cared as much about accuracy as I do.)

My question to you guys, though, is: where do we draw the line? At what point does a false lead or ruled-out potential suspect or local rumor become irrelevant, and perhaps even detrimental to the story?

Honestly, although I haven’t removed the info, I’m not sure I would have put the Baha’i thing into Jacob’s casefile if I myself had written it from scratch. There’s been news lately about Roger Day, an interview with his sister who mentions a “pedophile” who lived nearby and whose home was searched. They found bones that turned out to be not human. Yesterday I updated his case with more info, but didn’t include the bit about the neighborhood pedophile since there seemed to be no evidence, beyond his sister’s speculation, that Roger had any particular interaction with the man.

Where do we draw the line?

6 thoughts on “False leads

  1. libraryjobber November 5, 2015 / 10:54 pm

    There’s a CreateSpace book about Jacob’s disappearance. “It Can’t Happen Here: The Search for Jacob Wetterling.” Robert Dudley wrote it from news articles. I does refer to the Baha’i faith. So does the Dateline episode on Jacob.

    • Meaghan November 6, 2015 / 5:14 pm

      *adds book to her to-read list*

  2. William Baraby November 6, 2015 / 8:44 am

    I just read an article recently about Toni McNatt-Chiapetta disappearance. I’m not sure if you have updated her file recently. Looks like the Step father probably did it and the mother kind of covered it up by not sharing certain info with the police at the time. The mother found her soaking wet shirt hanging in the basement when she came home from work. A lead that almost certainly pointed the police in another direction.

    • Meaghan November 6, 2015 / 5:15 pm

      *finds article, adds bit about the wet shirt to Toni’s casefile*

  3. Sheri November 6, 2015 / 10:15 am

    Obviously, we don’t know if he’s guilty, but the composite sketch of the suspect looks EXACTLY like the person of interest in Jacob’s case, imo.

    • Crystal November 7, 2015 / 3:25 pm

      The POI in Jacob’s case wore a mask, so Jacob’s brother and friend could never describe his face. The composite sketch of a POI you’ve seen is the man who molested another boy several months prior. Do I think the suspect they arrested is the POI in both cases–yes.

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